Luís joined Pinheiro Neto Advogados in 1992. He has been a partner since 1998, and is the head of the firm’s employment practice. His practice focuses on cross-border employment matters, complex litigation and collective bargaining. Luís is a constant presence in the most relevant judgments and trials before higher courts. He holds an LLB and postgraduate degrees in labour law and labour procedural law from the University of São Paulo Law School.
What do you enjoy most about working in the field of labour law?
Labour is one of the most vivid areas of law; it deals with rules applicable to human relations all the time. It is very exciting to work on an area of law that always requires knowledge of how to deal with people. We need to think outside the box, and take the human factor into consideration in, for example, a litigation. It is very exciting.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
I have been working in labour law since I was a student at the University of São Paulo (1980–1984), and the market has dramatically changed since then. Lawyers had to follow the digital revolution of the business. The legal market became much more sophisticated. We had to expand our knowledge, from industrial relations to the gig economy. In addition, we had to pay attention to changes that have been affecting other jurisdictions, and try to anticipate how to adapt them locally. An understanding of the intersection of labour law and other areas (corporate, tax law, compliance) is crucial for labour lawyers. We always have to assess the pros and cons of an alternative, and consider the impacts on other areas.
How has your experience of working with labour unions earlier on in your career enhanced your current practice?
It was fantastic because I had a chance to learn how the union leaders think and what the most sensitive issues for the workers are. It is common for companies to conceive plans and incentive programmes that are not linked to what really matters for the workers. The experience with strikes – from the union perspective – gave me an understanding of the limits of a negotiation under pressure, and the need to know the political environment of each union.
What are the motivating factors currently driving union leaders, and how can companies effectively prepare strategies to deal with their demands?
The dramatic job reduction arising from new technologies and the new forms of work are still the most sensitive issues for union leaders. Most of them think about a job concept that has been changing and will not revert. An efficient internal communication system is the key element to understanding employees’ concerns and aligning them with the company’s objectives.
How do you seek to advise international clients on making their internal policies compatible with local restrictions arising from Brazilian labour law?
First, it is necessary to learn the main objective of an internal policy and, based on that, suggest alternatives to adapt the client’s purpose to what would be similar and permissible to that end. It is important to understand the rules applicable to the jurisdiction of the client’s headquarters and highlight similarities. For instance, it is easier to explain the risks of an independent contractor claiming an employment bond by talking about a reclassification suit, than simply mentioning the local risks.
What challenges for clients and practitioners do you see continuing to arise from the radical labour reforms of 2017?
The most significant one is anticipating how the courts will react to the new labour rules. Many such rules may be interpreted in a different way. If the labour courts keep their bias in favour of employees, deciding against the freedom of unions and companies to enter into collective agreements prevailing over the law, it may negatively affect the backbone of the labour reform.
What makes Pinheiro Neto Advogados stand out from its competitors in the market?
The fact that we are a full-service law firm, strongly committed to providing objective and useful advice to clients in all areas of law, makes a significant difference. The complexity of deals and litigation cases the firm has conducted since 1942 gives its lawyers solid expertise. Pinheiro Neto was one of the first Brazilian law firms to create a regular programme for its associates to study and work abroad. The firm, in turn, has been hosting foreign associates. This exchange allows lawyers to connect with the most relevant legal discussions that will improve the quality of the legal advice and the work.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I have worked on advising companies in sensitive labour issues, labour due diligence in the scope of M&A transactions, strong litigation cases and collective negotiations – but I would like to return to university to combine my experience with additional knowledge.